Having a Laugh in Tulsa – CycloFrosh Blog

While a lot of the cyclocross world was sliding around in some crazy mud at Jingle Cross in Iowa, there was a whole other contingency that showed up to sunny Broken Arrow, Oklahoma for the Ruts-n-Guts race. My experience in this town has been the 5 or so years I’ve raced Tulsa Tough.   So, my expectations of the Tulsa cycling community were high. Like Tulsa Tough, Ruts-n-Guts did not disappoint. The host housing was amazing, the race promoters were stoked, the courses were a mix of everything you’d want, and the fans… I love you OK cycling fans!!

 

These plans were somewhat last minute for my teammates and I. Yannick and I decided to drive out from Boulder with all the bikes and meet Erica, who was flying into Tulsa. Ten hours in the car can be miserable if you don’t have the right company or the weather doesn’t cooperate. Luckily, all was smooth and my legs felt pretty darn well on Friday. Yes, for once, I was there to pre-ride the course on Friday!

 

The first lap in ‘cross is a mystery to me. If I don’t start hard enough, I get caught behind crashes and bobbles that eventually let the front of the race smoothly ride away. If I start too hard, I’m the one making mistakes because I’m going too hard for my skill level. I had the experience of both of these situations this past weekend. Saturday, I wasn’t aggressive enough in the beginning and ended up upside down/inside out in the sand pit. This same sand pit I rode smoothly every other lap in the race. But, when you enter the sand pit with 15 other women in front of you, someone will fall and then there’s no getting around! On Sunday, I went hard in the first lap and then had an epic mud slide…into course tape/stake… which landed up with all kinds of tangled mess and a dropped chain. It wasn’t an easy one to recover from.

15UHCCross1835

Things I’ve learned:

  • How to pin arm numbers.
  • How to take a beer hand-up, which also included a $5 bill!
  • How to ride ruts, finally.
  • How to ride a decent sand pit. Not perfect but better then some others.
  • How to not use my front brake so much.
  • To use my big chain ring. Hilarious I know, but, I don’t think I used it at all for my first 5-6 races.
  • How to judge my tire pressure by feel. My teammates will be happy when I stop asking them.

 

Things I need to learn:

  • How to carry speed into 180 degree turns better.
  • How to not make crashing so dang epic. I end up backwards, upside down, bike between my legs, and not quick to pop back up.
  • How to dismount in the middle of shit hitting the fan. I am pretty damn sure this has something to do with #2 as well. I really need to plan out a dismount with plenty of warning.
  • How to remount faster. That double hop thing has got to stop.
  • How to master the energy output on that first lap. Go hard, go smart.
  • How to get a warm-up lap in with more speed so I am better at the beginning of the race. I always feel like I’m so much smoother in the last 2-3 laps.

 

So, you can see, it’s a process. But, after 13 races but nationally and locally, I’ve come a long way. After a bit of a frustrating weekend, personally, in Broken Arrow, OK, I can say that I’m still laughing at myself and having fun. The fans cheering and giving beer hand-ups helped me remember to smile this past weekend. Thank you! I almost started taking myself seriously. Tulsa, Oklahoma: YOU ARE AN AWESOME PLACE TO RACE A BIKE!!!

 

A big thank you to our host family- Jess, Brooks, Tayton, Ellis, Finley, and Ruby. What a cool family! Congratulations to both of my teammates, Yannick and Erica, for a double podium in OK. You two have got the right momentum leading up to Nationals in January!

A Simple Idea and New Perspectives

This whole ride-your-bike-on -irt thing started as a simple idea. I thought, why not extend my road racing season? I love racing my bike, I love riding dirt, I am in great racing shape, and maybe I will learn to drink beer while I’m at it.

Coming off of Team Time Trial World Championships in Richmond, VA at the end of September, I was in top form. There was some residual fatigue from the whole summer of road racing but I was pumped to have another bike to race. The idea was that I would take a couple weeks away from structured training and just practice skills. I would join Wednesday Worlds here in Boulder, I would hit the trails with my favorite girlfriends on our mountain bikes, and maybe I would even give my long lost love, running, another shot. Gold!

So, I fully embraced the idea of not having structured training. After all, it has been about 8 years since I haven’t been fully structured in training. Two weeks turned into… well, let’s just say it turned into more then two weeks!

As predicted, my first couple races challenged my skill level but not my fitness. Fitness=High. Skill=Low. I smiled the whole time and put zero pressure on myself to prove anything. It would all come together.

Does any other mathematical nerd remember what a sinusoid is? No? Ok, no big surprise. It’s a mathematical curve, like a wave. Without trying to go into so much description that I confuse myself, let’s just say that my fitness and my skill are two waves that are way out of sync. When my fitness was high, my skill was way low. As my skill level increased, my fitness went way down.

Racing at Kings CX in Cincinnati, OH, I felt like my skills were finally going to get to keep up with my fitness. Some bad luck on the first day had me in a crash within 100 meters of the start of the race. Day two had me just completely suffering. The two races of the Derby City Cup in Louisville, KY were a bit of a shocker to the system. In the skills department, I felt like a solid “B”. After working my way up from the failing kid on the back row, a “B” felt good. But, oh crap (!!!), my fitness was a solid “C-“. I didn’t see that coming!

It had been 7 weeks since Richmond and time to whip my butt into fine form!

It didn’t take long and 3 weeks later, I’m ready to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The fitness is back on the rise, the skills are not as embarrassing as they once were, and, who knows, maybe one day I might have some luck on that first lap and avoid the crashes.

People keep asking me, “are you still having fun?” The good news is that I’m smiling ear to ear each time I jump on that beautiful Parlee. The knobbies, that dirt, and the people: it all makes me so damn happy!

So, I’m hitting the next two weekends of racing with a new perspective. I’m going to use my fitness to put myself into a position that challenges my skills. Although I’m getting more competitive with myself, I still expect nothing less than improvement. Oh, wait, I do have another expection: I also expect more than the $1 handup Coryn Rivera gave me at Louisville. After ALL those leadouts in crits, after sacrificing myself over and over to put her on the top step of the podium, I think I at least deserve a $10 hand-up. Right? Cough, cough Coryn. You listening?

P.S. I haven’t learned to drink beer yet. That’s a work in progress.

An Off-Season Love Letter to Dirt

I ♥ dirt!

 

Recently I was donating some old cycling clothes and came across one of my first pair of cycling socks that simply read, “I ♥ dirt!” A subtle reminder of days past and a clue to what lies ahead.

 

Earlier this year, I made the tough decision to stop chasing the World Cup/Olympic Track Cycling dream. It has been an amazing journey full of accomplishments I never could have predicted when I started riding a bike at age 29. But, this decision left me staring at my first ever winter that some people might call an off-season. What the hell is the point of an off-season? Yes, that’s exactly what I thought.

 

So, I called my coach, Mark Legg and before I could finish my sentence he said yes. For years Mark, Katie Compton’s husband, has been telling me how much I would love cyclocross and that my physiology would make a good engine for the sport. For several years, when I was feeling mentally tired from training, Mark would tell me to go hit the dirt knowing it always rejuvenated my cycling spirit by bringing a simple smile to my face. After a very brief conversation that amounted to approval, my mission was clear: make this dirt-party thing they call cyclocross my new winter sport.
Zaveta and Higgins Warming Up, KMC Providence Cross Fest p/b Maxxis

And so it began…

 

Exactly twelve days after competing in the Team Time Trial at the UCI World Championships in Richmond, VA, I was flying to Providence, RI to compete at the KMC Providence Cross Fest presented by Maxxis Tires in the UCI C1 race. I was diving head first, blindly, into what I’m trusting is going to be one hell of a challenge. The goal of the weekend in Providence was to smile. Secretly, I also had the goal of not crashing!

 

Day one was unbelievably fun! I laughed, I smiled, I didn’t crash myself (I did crash but I swear it wasn’t my fault) and I realized there isn’t much you can do when you start on the back row. So, small things became my personal challenges: dismount, remount, pedal through the turns, gear selection, fly-overs!?!, head up, and most importantly HAVE FUN! I accepted my place in the back of the pack, never even trying to pass other women for fear I would fumble a technical section in front of them. By the end of the race, my confidence was building and I was begging for a couple more laps of racing.

 

Day two was slightly more challenging as I started, once again, in the very back and then didn’t manage to clip in right away. So, being last into the single track and stuck behind 3 crashes in the first lap was frustrating. Luckily I had some guys I met right before the start yelling “SMILE!!” each lap. The day ended with a DNF from a mechanical but my spirit is far from broken!

 

I’m realistic. I know I need more than the four days I spent on my cyclocross bike pre-Providence to become efficient and skilled. I respect what these top competitors have done to reach their level in this sport. I have much to learn in order to make that beautiful Parlee bike proud! But, I’m not new to challenges and learning. Happiness is a not-so-secret training tool of athletes; take away the smile and you stifle progression. I love dirt! If the amount of smiles this weekend is any indication, I’ll be progressing as a cyclocrosser pretty quickly.

Danny Summerhilld, KMC Providence Cross Fest p/b Maxxis

Thanks so much to my teammates for being my mentors. Danny, Luke, and Erika, this weekend would have been impossible without you. Chris Kreidle, thanks for the hugs when I needed them most. David Sagat, thanks for all the cheers from the pits!

 

Thanks to my Boulder cyclocross community for being so encouraging. The amount of people who have helped and offered to help is unbelievable!

 

To the Ladies of the cylcocross peloton, thank you for your support and heckling. I can’t wait to mix it up with you again!!

 

One thing is for sure, jumping in head first in what was described as a very “European-type UCI race” did not discourage or scare me. I’m ready for more…more dirt, more smiles!